A week ago, we asked our readers for help identifying books and authors that we could use as part of a new NAS research project. Our aim is to examine hundreds of curricula to see whether there are disparities in the way conservative, liberal, libertarian, and radical political views are represented. To this end, we hope to compile very brief lists of key works (or authors) that beyond reasonable dispute accurately represent these broad points of view.
Our goal is a list of ten books in each category. Any research project has parameters. Ours include rejecting any book that can be reasonably claimed by more than one political tradition. We’ve also set a cutoff date of 1750 on the grounds that works that are earlier than this are too difficult to assign unambiguously to the four traditions we are attempting to elucidate.
We’ve had a generous response from readers, for which we are grateful. We hope for more. Some contributors urged us to include Plato, Aristotle, and other slightly earlier than 1750 writers. We mean no disrespect to great thinkers of antiquity or early modern times but such writers wouldn’t really assist our research goal. Plato, for example, cannot be clearly characterized as conservative, liberal, or radical, although we can say he was definitely not a libertarian.
The suggestions we received also included a fair number of writers who are not well-known and therefore would have no value as standard indicators. The suggestions, however, have enriched our own reading lists—and may well be of interest to others who visit this site. Spooner, for example, comes to us as a highly recommended libertarian writer. We don’t know him but are eager to make the acquaintance.
Another unexpected kind of submission consisted of secondary works. We are currently of the view that our final list should consist of primary texts.
Finally, we have received a substantial number of names of important 20th century scholars who, however, are not in any obvious way representative of key political traditions. We enclose that list as well, partly in the spirit that it never hurts to give a nod of recognition to great thinkers and writers.
We’d also like to solicit your help with a second task. The work of reducing the abundance of suggestions to a consensus list of ten key works in each category can only benefit from wider discussion. In the end we will have to make our own choices but we want those choices to reflect a broad spectrum of informed opinion. We have two specific requests. First, in some cases we need your help in understanding where a proposed writer lies in our four-part political grid. You’ll find a list below of books and writers that we so far cannot categorize with confidence.
Second, we present below all of the names that have been suggested so far. We have also created a survey with the names; you can help classify the ones that belong on our list and nix the ones that don’t. Would you take a few moments to scan through the survey and rate the books and authors you know? Click here to take the political books and authors survey.
Suggested Books and Authors
Declaration of Independence x 2
Federalist Papers x 2
Blanshard, Brand. Four Reasonable Men
Blanshard, Brand. Reason and Goodness
Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind
du Bonald, Louis. On Divorce
Burke, Edmund Reflections on the Revolution in France
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents
Hanson, Victor Davis. Carnage and Culture
Hume, David. Inquiry into the Principles of Morals
Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty
Muravchik, Joshua. The History of Socialism
Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals
Orwell, George. 1984
Dalrymple, Theodore. Life at the Bottom
Goldberg, Jonah. Liberal Fascism
Levin, Mark. Liberty and Tyranny
Mackay, Charles. Extraordinary Popular Delusion and the Madness of Crowds
Shlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man
Sowell, Thomas. Black Rednecks and White Liberals
Sowell, Thomas. The Search for Comic Justice
Sowell, Thomas. The Sustaining Vision
Williams, Walter E. Do the Right Thing: The People's Economist Speaks
Bastiat, M. Frederic. Essays on Political Economy
Bastiat, M. Frederic. The Law x 2
Bastiat, M. Frederic. That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen
Hayek, Friedrich. The Road to Serfdom
Smith, Adam. The Moral Passions
Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations
Keller, Bill. Class Matters
Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals
Marcuse, Herbert. Repressive Tolerance
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto
Adams, John x 2
Burnham, James x 2
Ortega y Gasset, José
Galbraith, John Kenneth
Hanson, Victor Davis
Hook, Sidney x 2
Horowitz, David x 2
Hume, David x 2
de Jasay, Anthony
de Jouvenel, Bertrand
Mill, John Stuart
Mills, C. Wright
Nock, Albert Jay
Popper, Karl x 2
de Saussure, Ferdinand
Spencer, Herbert x 2
de Tocqueville, Alexis x 2
Washington, Booker T.
Weaver, Richard x 2
Wilson, James Q.
Buckley, William F.
Mac Donald, Heather
Novak, Michael x 2
Paine, Thomas x 2
Sowell, Thomas x 6
Bastiat, M. Frederic x 2
Hayek, Friedrich de Maistre, Joseph
von Mises, Ludwig
Murray, Charles x 2
Williams, William Appleman
Alinsky, Saul x 2
de Certeau, Michel
Excluded Books and Authors
Aristotle. Ethics (pre-1750)
Aristotle. Politics (pre-1750)
Cosandrey, David. Le Secret de l'Occident: Vers une Théorie Générale du Progrès Scientifique (not in English)
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War (pre-1750)
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan (pre-1750)
Locke, John. Second Treatise of Civil Government (pre-1750)
Lucretius. On the Nature of Things (pre-1750)
Hobbes, Thomas (pre-1750)
Locke, John (pre-1750)
20th Century Scholars
von Grunebaum, Gustave
Hale, Charles A.
Kristeller, Paul Oskar
Lovejoy, Arthur O.
Noonan, John T.
Sansom, George B.
Wilson, Arthur M.